Structuring data into databases has long been a solution to store complex data that can be retrieved and reported in variable ways. That data solution, however, has a legal problem in the e-discovery context.
It took years for many litigators and judges to become comfortable with discovery of e-mail and other electronic records. But as more forms of electronic records enter into discovery disputes, lawyers are back on unfamiliar ground. "There are still types of evidence that lawyers prefer to ignore and hope will go away, the way e-mail discovery was ten years ago," says Rob Brunner, who leads the Financial and Enterprise Data Analytics practice at FTI Consulting. "And I hate to say it, but e-mail was an easy problem compared to what's next."
Brunner is speaking specifically of structured data, especially electronic evidence from databases. However, structured data includes a broad swath of content types, including common sources most might consider a document, such as e-mail. Any time a software system, whether a large, enterprise database or an e-mail server, pulls information from a number of different files and merges them into a single view, it is functioning like a database. Unstructured data is commonly defined as data that is not stored in a database or in a semantically tagged document.